Does Using Yoga for Weight Loss Work?
To most people practicing yoga for weight loss might not look very effective. They might think how can just a bit of stretching possibly burn calories? Well, yoga can work for weight loss if it’s used in the right way. Furthermore, be assured that yoga is a wise, safe as well as effective option for weight loss.
Also, let’s not forget that this is the oldest physical culture known to man, and not only does this exercise work the body, it works mind and soul as well.
Recommended Yoga Poses for Weight Loss
The Sun Salutations (Surya Namaskara)
When using yoga for weight loss, these exercises are a combination of yoga poses, breathing exercises, sun bathing and prayer. They have been practiced for centuries by yoga practitioners in India, martial artists and African wrestlers, and, as a system to rejuvenate body and soul, they’re beyond compare. In drugless healing circles it has been said that one round of the Sun Salutations will show a better result than exercising at the gym for a week!
They are quite easy to practice and just about anyone, regardless of their fitness or flexibility levels, can learn these simple exercises. Actually, if you are familiar with “burpees” (the calisthenics exercise), they originate from the Sun Salutations.
Here are some of the benefits:
- Alleviates skin and waist disorders.
- Increases flexibility, corrects breathing, and exercises mildly legs and arms, thus increases the circulation.
- One of the best ways to burn calories to reduce weight and is quite often recommended when suffering from obesity or depression.
- Is an effective way of loosening up, stretching and massaging all joints and internal organs of the body.
- Balances as well as stimulates all the body systems, including the endocrine, the circulatory, the reproductive and the digestive system.
1. Stand straight with the palms together as in a prayer position.
2. Inhale and stretch the arms above the head.
3. Exhale and bend forward while touching the toes.
4. Inhale and stretch the right leg away from the body in a big backward step and keep the hands and left foot firmly on the ground. Bending the head backward, the left knee should be between the hands.
5. Inhale and hold the breath. Move the left leg from the body and, by keeping both feet together and the knees off the floor, rest on the hands (arms straight), and keep the body in a straight line from head to foot.
6. Exhale and lower the body to the floor. In this position, only eight portions of the body come in contact with the floor: the two feet, two knees, two hands, chest as well as forehead.
7. Inhale and bend back as much as possible, bending the spine to the maximum.
8. Exhale and lift the body of the floor. Keep the feet and heels on the floor.
9. Inhale and bring the right foot along the level of the hands; left foot and knee should touch the ground. Look up, bending the spine slightly (same position as #4)
10. Exhale and bring the left leg forward. Keep the knees straight, and bring the head down to the knees as in the third position.
11. Raise the arms overhead and bend backward inhaling. As in position two.
12. Exhale, drop the arms, and relax. You have now completed one round.
Perform as many rounds as possible in multiples of three. Ideally you want to aim for six rounds minimum and up to a maximum of 30. It takes only about 5-10 minutes, depending on your speed and intensity. Also, it’s best practiced first thing in the morning wearing as little clothing as possible in front of an opened window.
Well, this was the core pose or a combination thereof when using yoga for weight loss. Let’s now go over specific poses (asanas) targeting some trouble spots, plus some additional breathing exercises to accelerate the burning up of calories.
Yoga Poses for Weight Loss for Trouble Spots
1. Abdominal Region
The forward bending pose (Uttanasana), the bow pose (Dhanurasana), the peacock pose (Mayurasana), the spinal twist (Vakrasana), and the triangle pose (Trikonasana).
2. The Arms
Certainly the peacock pose (Mayurasana), the wheel pose (Chakrasana), the crow pose (Bakasana), the side plank pose (Vasisthasana) as well as the 4-limb staff pose (Chaturanga Dandasana).
3. The Thighs
The bow pose (Dhanurasana), the shoulder stand (Sarvangasana), the hero pose (Virasana), the triangle pose (Trikonasana), and also the wheel pose (Chakrasana).
4. Love Handles
The spinal twist (Vakrasana), the triangle pose (Trikonasana), (with practice) the side crow pose (Parsva Bakasana) as well as (for ease) the side plank pose (Vasisthasana).
The above spots are the ones most people seem to target when trying to lose weight. All the poses mentioned are well-known in yoga circles and are, indeed, very easy to practice.
I will emphasize though, performing the Sun Salutations (upward of 24 rounds) should be your main focus if practicing yoga for weight loss, even before trying the other poses.
The Shoulder Stand Will Help Too
The shoulder stand is the one pose that some yogis and yoginis state to be a versatile enough pose for the whole body. However, it’s best practiced with its counter poses. In fact, since these poses can effect your lives’ metaphysical and spiritual aspects, it would be quite safe to say to never execute a yoga pose without counter posing it.
Brief Overview of The Shoulder Stand as a Yoga Pose For Weight Loss:
- Spread a thick blanket on the floor and place your yoga mat on it.
- Lie on the back.
- Slowly raise the legs.
- Lift the trunk, hips and legs to a vertical position.
- Rest the elbows firmly on the floor and support the back with both hands. (See the illustration for a proper execution).
- Raise the legs until they become vertical.
- Press the chin against the chest. This is the chin lock. While performing this pose, the back of the neck, the posterior part of the head, and the shoulders should touch the floor.
- Breathe in counts of 5-5-5 (inhalation, retention and exhalation). Don’t allow the body to shake.
Its counter poses are the bridge pose and fish pose which will target your forearms/thighs and chest/neck respectively.
The Bridge Pose (Setu Bhandhasana)
First, lie on your back, then fold your knees keeping your feet and hip distance apart on the floor in a straight line (about 10-12 inches from your pelvis).
Now, place your arms beside your body (palms facing down), and, whilst inhaling, lift your lower back, middle back and upper back slowly off the floor. Next, gently roll in the shoulders, touch the chest to the chin (without bringing the chin down) by supporting your weight with shoulders, arms and feet.
Then, feel your bottom firm up in this pose, and keep both thighs parallel to each other on the floor.
Finally, breathe normally by holding this posture for about 1-2 minutes, then exhale by gently releasing the pose.
The Fish Pose (Matsyasana)
At first, lie down on your back by ensuring that your legs are together, and your hands are comfortably placed beside your body (palms down). Now slide your hands under the hips, and place your elbows close to the waist.
Next, have your legs crossed in a way that your feet cross at your middle (thighs and knees should be flat on the floor). Now, inhale and with the help of elbows and shoulders raise the chest and head (crown touches slightly the floor).
Breathe normally and hold this position only as long as you feel comfortable with it. Exit this pose by first lifting your head, sliding your chest back to the floor, and untangling your legs.
Breath of Fire Breathing Exercise
As promised, here is the breath of fire breathing exercise that can be added to the yoga practice to speed up the burning of calories:
- Take a few breaths and see that the diaphragm is moving properly. Now with the eyes closed (as they should be when performing all breathing exercises) make a sudden contraction of the abdomen with a backward push. This leads to a sudden yet firm expulsion of stagnant air from the lungs.
- Now, follow this with a sudden relaxation (which naturally makes the new air rush in), and perform the exercise like this: passive inhalation and active expulsions at a rate of sudden abdominal push per second one after the other. A round should have 15-20 expulsions. Do not exceed three rounds.
- You may increase gradually to 120 expulsions per round and then perform only two rounds. (As soon as you are doing 50 expulsions per round, do not exceed two rounds!) Between each round take a pause for about 30 seconds of normal breathing.
Finally, this is all the information needed to get started on the use of yoga for weight loss – the poses for the trouble spots, the bellows breath, the shoulder stand, and the almighty sun salutation.
However, please remember that for the same reasons Hippocrates, the father of medicine, stated: “Let your foods be your medicine and your medicine your foods,” you need to include a proper diet in order to lose weight with yoga.
Keep in mind that this is an all too important part of this exercise. Therefore, there’s no way around it (Hopefully, you were aware of it already).
Just strike a pose and see for yourself how yoga for weight loss can be a safe as well as effective choice for you.